Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Real stars of show

February 15th, 2014

I WAS taken to task recently at the end of a talk by a member of the audience for not mentioning the two dogs’ names often enough in this column.

It’s not a conscious thing. I suppose I’m so used to them guddling about the woods when we’re out walking or flopped across my feet under the desk when I’m working at my computer, that I imagine readers will be equally familiar with them.

It’s clearly time to reintroduce the two bold boys.

Macbeth is a West Highland White Terrier, more affectionately known as a Westie. The modern breed is descended from a line established around the turn of the last century by a Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch, a Highland estate between Oban and Lochgilphead.

He wanted a terrier with short legs that could be entered into fox earths to flush the foxes out. With Macbeth he’d have found the archetypal Westie with wee, sawn-off legs!

It’s a Westie that appears with a Scottie (Aberdeen Terrier) on the label of Black and White whisky. Another was the canine star of the TV series Hamish Macbeth. That wasn’t the reason for choosing Macbeth’s name because I don’t suppose I ever watched one of the programmes the whole way through. It was just plucked out of the air, as it were, and it has seemed to suit him.

It might seem self-evident that Labrador Retrievers originated in Labrador on Canada’s west coast, but the reality appears to be that they were bred as boat dogs by Newfoundland fishermen.

They arrived in England in the early nineteenth century. Their hunting instinct and ability to find and retrieve shot game has made them a favourite with shooters. A steady temperament and affinity with us humans makes them ideal family pets, and of course they are a regular choice as guide dogs for the blind.

Inka, our black Labrador, is actually Inka Two, but the third Lab. in the Man with Two Dogs chronicles – if you can work your way through that labyrinth.

Sheba was ten years old when I started writing the column and she died of old age two years later. She was sorely missed but was replaced with Inka One who died of kidney failure aged three and a half. Inka Two is Inka One’s grandson.

I concocted the name from the idea that Inka was as black as ink. It has the distinct hard K consonant sound which helped both dogs during their early training to recognise and respond to their name.

There’s a field of oil seed rape that we – that’s Macbeth and Inka and me – pass on one of our regular walks. Oil seed rape is the first crop to be sown in autumn after the harvest has finished. There is an initial burst of growth which goes into a sort of agricultural suspended animation until springtime.

The green leaves are a magnet for hungry pigeons in the winter and, as a deterrent to protect his crop, the farmer has put a scarecrow in the field. It’s a shooter with his gun at his shoulder and, as a helpful warning to the marauding cushies, there’s a flag attached to the barrel which says BANG.

I’m not sure that the doos are giving proper credit to the scarecrow designer’s creativity. I see no pigeons lying on their backs, turning up their toes and giving up the will to live. On the other hand I don’t see droves of the grey marauders devouring the crop, so perhaps that’s all the credit the scarecrow designer needs.

The scarecrow is accompanied by his trusty hound, a snipey-faced brute of indeterminate breed. It must be cold out there because the dog’s hind legs are encased in a pair of long woollen stockings that look as though their previous assignment was hanging from the mantelpiece for Santa Clause to fill.

But my main concern is for the scarecrow who must be getting awfy sair feet by now. You see, his wellie boots are on the wrong feet. It’s a known fact that this can stop the circulation of blood to the head which sooner or later begins to resemble a turnip.

It can be a hard life being a scarecrow.

Written on Saturday, February 15th, 2014 at 11:05 am for Weekly.